The news: Retailers across the US are being forced to adjust their brick-and-mortar strategies as the spread of the omicron variant exacerbates the pressure on already stretched staff.
How we got here: Pandemic-induced burnout has hit many industries hard, as the number of people quitting reaches record highs. This, coupled with omicron’s highly contagious nature, has wreaked havoc on retailers’ ability to maintain business as usual.
The implications: Retailers are overhauling their in-store experience on the fly by adjusting hours and adding more self-service options. For example, ShopRite earlier this week rolled out an automated pickup pod that provides consumers in New Rochelle, N.Y., with a contactless way to retrieve their online grocery orders. That type of technology can reduce the retailer’s reliance on store employees and may drive an increase in online shopping.
Following a 32.4% jump in ecommerce sales in 2020, online sales rose another 16.1% last year. We forecast that with fewer store hours, shoppers will likely continue to shift more of their spending online with ecommerce sales expected to rise 15.9% this year.
The takeaway: The omicron variant has wreaked havoc on already challenged store-based retailers. As merchants test ways to keep their doors open, their natural experiments will likely result in new procedures that could fundamentally alter consumer behavior.